The Six (Cousin) Wives of Henry VIII

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A while back, I was researching my father’s line and tentatively discovered one of his ancestors is a “gateway” ancestor: a person with proven Royal ancestry.  In my case, this person is also one of my “immigrant” ancestors.

Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, for whom Delaware is named, is in theory, my 10th great-grandfather.  This “link” is based on distant DNA matches to the West family and inferences from various historical documents, such as censuses, land purchases, marriages, and birth records.  (Not 100% proven yet, but a pretty solid trail pointing to him through the Hawkins and Macon families I have proof I’m related to.)

West was created Governor-for-Life and Captain-General of Virginia, replacing Captain John Smith, around 1609.  Baron De La Warr first visited America in 1610 when he sailed to resupply the Jamestown Colony in Virginia after John Ratcliffe’s death during the First Anglo-Powhatan War.  He went back to England in 1611, but his brother John and some of Thomas’ own descendants ultimately ended coming to and staying in America.

Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, is directly descended from Mary Boleyn (sister of Anne Boleyn, Queen Consort of England), who in turn are both descended from Edward I, King of England, thus making him my “gateway” guy.  (There may be others, but I haven’t found them yet.)  As various genealogy people have said, if you have any European ancestry, there are no doubt royals in your line somewhere.  I’m just lucky that I figured out one of mine, so I know where my family fits into that larger tree.

BTW, once you’re related to Edward I, you’re also related to Charlemagne about another 15 generations back, as well as pretty much all the rest of European royalty!  In fact, given how much interbreeding happened trying to keep all the countries all in the family, it’s hard NOT to be related to them all once you find one royal relative that far back.  (1st cousin marriages were quite common, as well as a few uncle/niece ones, just to keep a stranglehold on the various thrones.  Ewwww…)  Some places in my family tree look like Gordian knots given how many people were double first cousins, etc…

So, since I’ve always been fascinated by British and European history, actually knowing these people are my real ancestors and cousins made it all the more vivid for me.  I wanted to figure out who each was to me (and to each other.)  And after enjoying the 3 Netflix series recently, The White Queen, The White Princess, and The Spanish Queen, based on times from Edward IV through Henry VIII, I decided to recreate my family tree based in that time period.

I knew Henry VIII and his wives were all cousins, but not sure exactly how, so that was my first big project.  (As you can guess, there went a month of research and updating my family tree to get complete lines that converged!!)

I’m a “visual” person, so needed a way to see the relationships, thus I created this chart which let me see how each descends from their common ancestor (and mine), Edward I, and where they all intersect:

6 (Cousin) Wives of Henry VIII

As far as I can tell, Henry VIII was most closely related to his last wife, Catherine Parr, as they shared a 4x great-grandfather, Thomas Holland.  (Unless I missed a closer connection to his wives not on the Edward I line, but through a different ancestor…)

On the other hand, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were 1st cousins – the two most closely related of the seven people, sharing a grandfather, Thomas Howard.

Next were Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Jane Seymour.  They were 1/2 2nd cousins to each other through a shared great-grandmother, Elizabeth Cheyney, on another line.  (Nothing like keeping a throne / country all in the family, eh?)

Ultimately, though, they all tie back to Edward I.  So, even though it seemed like you had one Spanish queen, one German Queen, and four English Queens, they really all were English (cousin) queens.  (Or Norman/Viking queens, if you figure they all had William the Conqueror as a many times great-grandfather just 6 more generations back from Edward I.  Or all Frankish ones, given Charlemagne as a common ancestor, too!)

For more details on my tree and all these people/links, you can visit my KL DeWitt Family Research Project section of my site.

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